Earlier this week, Brad Moon wrote an excellent piece justifying iPads for kids, full of reasons why iPads are great for kids. There were lots of good reasons, but what about when there are a bunch of kids and only one iPad? Well, 3M has a simple solution in the MP225a mobile projector, a powerful and inexpensive projector that was made to work with iOS devices. The MP225a is similar to other 3M projectors like the MP160, but with Apple-specific connectivity and the simplicity you expect from Apple devices.
Let’s say you’re on vacation and just got back to your hotel room after a day at the zoo or amusement park. You’ve been snapping photos and want to share them with the family. With the 3M MP225a, you can be sharing a slideshow inside a minute. You can also use the device to easily watch a movie in a backyard tent, project a presentation to a boardroom, or play a game for all to see.
The small projector is roughly six inches long, two and one-half inches wide, an inch tall, and weighs a little more than half a pound, making it very portable. It’s powered by a lithium ion battery that will provide two hours of projection (fully charges in three hours) and can also be run from the included AC adapter. Its 32 lumens might seem woefully underpowered compared to bigger projectors, but compared to other palm-sized projectors it is surprisingly amazing. Thanks to its use of LEDs, there are no lamps to replace and you’ll get an estimated 20,000 hours of life out of the device.
Picture size is impressive and can be varied by moving the projector closer or further away from the wall (or whatever you’re using as a screen). The tech specs from 3M say that the projector can deliver a screen size from ten to eighty inches, but I thought the picture looked decent from six to 120 inches. Its native resolution is 800 x 600 SVGA, but supports a number of other resolutions. Projected images look best in dark rooms, but can be seen in most situations, save a bright room.
Setup is incredibly simple, what you would expect if Apple had made the device themselves. While the MP225a carries some battery charge out of the box, it’s not much, so a charge might be necessary. After that, it’s just a matter of plugging the video cable into the projector and the iOS device. Turn the power on, find a dark room and a flat surface, and you’re ready to go.
The projector works out of the box with the native Photo app on iPads, Keynote and plays videos from Netflix or the video app that comes with iOS devices. With the addition of a 3M VGA cord and an Apple VGA adapter, you can use the mirroring ability of iPads 2 or later to project games, although the cord may be a little short for games that make extensive use of the gravity sensor.
The projector works with iPod Touches, iPhones, and iPads, and the optional VGA adapter allows you to hook up to a laptop or desktop, making for a nice portable presentation projector. What’s more, with a special composite cable, you can also hook the projector to DVD players or video game consoles. To help with projecting, the MP225a has a small stand, but more importantly, includes capability for a standard tripod mount, which is great for use with a Gorillapod or similar mini tripod.
There are few complaints with the MP225a, but one would be that its internal stereo speakers are weak and, depending on the volume, sometimes overpowered by the sound of the fan. Fortunately, the device has an audio output for headphones or external speakers.
Outside of the focus wheel, there’s no way to affect the picture and sometimes it’s tricky to get the picture proportionate, requiring some extra attention when setting up the projector. Finally, since the MP225a is billed as a portable device, it would have been nice to include a sliding cover to protect the lens.
Nevertheless, the 3M MP225a is a really great projector with ease-of-use hard-baked into its DNA. Its price tag is pretty reasonable in terms of smaller mobile projectors too, retailing at just under $300. While it doesn’t do very well in bright rooms, the MP225a still performs admirably in most rooms and exceptionally in dark rooms. With its versatility and simplicity, it makes for an excellent choice when considering small projectors.